Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Brush with Death

Last night, friends of my parents came over for a drink. They are a very socially and financially well-off couple and yesterday they seemed no different than any other person from whatever 'level of society'. The poor woman had a traumatic experience just a few hours before, when she tried crossing a not-so main road. They were with a group of people trying to cross over and when the rest of the group started walking, they followed suit. Little did she realize that she misjudged the rate of speed that a huge 4-wheeler was whizzing by. She tripped on the road and fell flat on her stomach.. after which she just froze in the middle of the road. Her husband pulled her out in the nick of time onto the pavement. She was relaying the story to us and cried at the end when she said, "I would have been no more".

Almost everyone on earth has had a close brush with death at least once in a lifetime. I personally have had quite a few.. I nearly exploded when I was 9 years old while celebrating the Indian festival of lights, I've been knocked down by a drunk driver, and I nearly drowned once while vacationing with my mom and sister in Thailand (my breadth control under the current was what saved me, thanks to my many years of swim training). I wonder what sort of message this close brush with death is? It certainly made me appreciate life a little more when I got out alive from these situations. But more than that, I think those experiences taught me to fear living a useless, meaningless life. They were significant enough to bring back my faith in a God. I figured I would place my bet on the existence of an Almighty rather than on chance/eternal matter, etc. Sometimes faith is born through the most frightening of times.

I'd rather not talk about death much more now.. but I am shit scared by the thought of us being judged after we die. The reason I believe in this is because it is almost natural that things need to be compensated for. So it is with justice. People who have been treated wrong, and who have done wrong will get what they deserve, in this life or the next.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Post-Valentine Revelation

Things are definitely looking up for me (a wise man said that when things are way down there is nowhere else to go but up!). Work is picking up and the fruits of my self-belief are coming to be. I am more busy now than most times and actually making myself a decent earning. But then I dreaded V-Day where everyone seems so happy and in love with their significant others, even though many if not most relationships lack foundation.

I was pleasantly surprised finding a website that was commercial enough but personally lifting. The site was LoveTactics, and they're selling a 'system' based on human behavioral principles and the psychology of romantic behavior. They claim to have helped a lot of people get the 'one you want' by applying practical behaviors in the quest for being loved by the one they love. Wow you can make money teaching people how to fall in love! So naturally I was curious as to what exactly went into it.

I especially loved the article they had on how to handle rejection. There is a simple technique one could employ which uses rejection to make a new start with your partner.. it is not the end! Now that gives hope to someone who's been dumped. Rejection should be treated much like a hiccup I suppose. The key is to react in such a way that the rejector party is boggled out of his/her mind at the unexpected way you deal with it in his/her face. I remember when one of my ex's just didn't see eye to eye with me anymore, I begged and confronted him for an explanation. All he said was "Don't you see it in my actions? I don't need to say anything to you." That was one of the most hurtful things ever, although he was one of the most unique people I've ever met (his story will be the subject of another blog entry.. Rick will always be in my heart). Now according to this LoveTactics thing, I should have just smiled and said something like, "oh ok so that's cool you don't think you're right for me. Would you like to continue on with a friendship?" Upon which, I should have disappeared off the face of the earth as far as he was concerned. People want you more when you are available less.

Anyhow, this Valentine's Day was quite a revelation for me.. this site gave me a crash course in love in the 21st century where mind games and subtle behaviors rule the land. Love according to the founders of LoveTactics Chuck Woolery and Tom McKnight is made of three fundamental attributes: Friendship, Respect, and Passion. If any of these are missing, there are bound to be cracks in your relationship. Its so simple, and yet people miss these all the time. So yep. Chemistry is not ALL what you should look for.. coz it dies down in no time. Passion needs to come with commanding high respect from the other person in the way they treat you, and he/she must be a friend which means being there by your side for 24-hour support (not suffocation).

So go ahead and analyze your past relationships. I bet they didn't have one of these three essential ingredients to a lasting and true connection. Although I don't ever regret what I've said or done in the past, if I simply known that rejection is not the end and in fact it almost always can be created as a new beginning I might have scored more points in the game of love. I'm older and wiser now to realize that not all marriages are made in heaven as we have to work at them here on earth first! And earthly love may be nothing more than a series of behavioral interactions, conversations, and physical friction that excites the core of your personality. So maybe we should shift our perception of love from being a supernatural thing that will happen for sure and that rolls without a hitch, to something that works only when you play it right and take the lead role.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Violence with Caricatures

Reading, watching, hearing world news lately? I don't think there's ever been so much talk about the right to free expression vs. the sadness of anti-religious sentiment. Cartoons re-interpreting the life of Prophet Muhammad printed last September in a Danish publication sparks vehement protests all over the world among Muslim communities two months later. The Caricature controversy has spun on every news channel in the world. What gives?

Drawings aren't a big deal unless they're in the middle of one of the most intense eras of our socio-political-religious history. I'm sure I do not need to introduce the history of the controversy here. But I do want to revisit a cultural question that echoes with the common man and provides a living for the common journalist.

What is the role of a journalist. Reports the boss and advises common folk on the state of our world that is so devoid of common sense. Ok seriously. Their duty is to provide information on current affairs locally and globally so that the public can be made aware, be informed, and be served with a comprehensive picture.. no pun intended. The audience can then form opinions that shape their mind, and make decisions that shape their lives. Journalists indeed possess the most powerful weapon known to mankind. The pen.

I believe in the human right to free expression. I once again find myself divided on a cultural wall. One side reads "We are free to express our opinions, interpretations, and attitudes regarding contemporary issues. People are free to dissent and the rest of the world may react as they like." The other side reads "We have a religious duty to stand up against the desecration of our Holy Prophet and portraying him in such a manner is unjustified no matter what your personal beliefs are". I honestly feel like I want to be on both sides of this wall.

I am not a religious person, but I have been a student of religion. I do not know the holy scriptures at the back of my hand, but I do have faith in a higher power which ultimately guides my life. Despite common belief, for me, religion is no more than an extremely personal and individualistic culture. How could religious practice and culture be definitively separated? I'm afraid the world just ain't so black and white. People may be following the same religious text, but show me two people who have the exact same interpretation of these texts. Show me two people who have the exact amount of knowledge and feel identical sentiments during worship of the Almighty. There are no two people who's religions are the same.

Back to the cartoons. If I were a journalist, which I think I am in my own way, I would NEVER ever allow those caricatures printed in mass publication. But the devil inside me still wants to defend the caricaturist. In all genuinity, the cartoons opened my eyes to how this individual views the Prophet. These views are representative of a large section of western society. I want to say that there is a difference between political cartoons and anti-religious depictions, but the Prophet Muhammad was also known as a great political leader, apart from being a religious teacher. The rapid growth of Islam can be much attributed to the Prophet's skills in negotiation and diplomacy, not to mention as 'Chief of the Armed Forces' (which is what the President of the United States is titled today).

My personal convictions seem to be winning this battle though. Faith is a step higher than freedom in the hierarchy of my conviction tree. Again however, if I were called to protest against a bunch of drawings that have no chance to come to life, I would decline with no equivocations. I wish I could alter the reactions of Muslim protestors from one of rage to one of nonchalant indifference.

Even though I remain divided on the freedom to express, I have made it clear that I personally couldn't allow those cartoons to get printed for the masses. It has hurt too many people at an already troubled time in their history. But what I do remain undivided on is my sheer belief that if you react to something, it will come back at you.. and if you decide to leave it alone and go about your path, it will disappear and not hurt as much.